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A Man Needs A Fish Like A Woman Needs a Bicycle
Sunday, February 19, 2006
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE CULTURE WARS: I read a link from Atrios with interst: "Zombie Wingnuttery: Impossible to Kill" which pointed to a NY Times correction speaking of a position ascribed incorrectly to feminist law theorist, Catharine McKinnon. Atrios tisks tisks about misattribution against the good name of Catharine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. Essentially, it boils down to an ascribed claim that "All sex is rape," or, "All men are rapists." The claim is that the pornography industry made up the quote in order to discredit McKinnon and her sometimes co-writer, Andrea Dworkin. So, let us grant immediately that the quote is made up. What do we know of what these theorists actually said? Well, I read Dworkin's book, Intercourse, a long time ago. I remember then that I did not like it. I didn't like it because it seemed so lop-sided, which polemics are supposed to be, I guess. This line stuck out for me, though:

"A human being has a body that is inviolate; and when it is violated, it is abused. A woman has a body that is penetrated in intercourse: permeable, its corporeal solidness a lie. The discourse of male truth--literature, science, philosophy, pornography--calls that penetration violation. This it does with some consistency and some confidence. Violation is a synonym for intercourse. At the same time, the penetration is taken to be a use, not an abuse; a normal use; it is appropriate to enter her, to push into ("violate") the boundaries of her body. She is human, of course, but by a standard that does not include physical privacy. "

When added to her thoughts that:

""Penetrative intercourse is, by its nature, violent. But I'm not saying that sex must be rape. What I think is that sex must not put women in a subordinate position. It must be reciprocal and not an act of aggression from a man looking only to satisfy himself. That's my point.""

I am left with a strange feeling of vertigo. After all, how exactly is it possible to say that: "Penetrative intercourse is, by its nature, violent. But I'm not saying that sex must be rape"?

She says in Intercourse:

"Intercourse as an act often expresses the power men have over women. Without being what the society recognizes as rape, it is what the society-- when pushed to admit it--recognizes as dominance. "

Dworkin's position seems to be sugesting that penetrative sex is bad (unless we are somehow taking a value neutral view of what "violence" is as a concept), and that it isn't exactly rape (well sort of). Its domination as constructed within the context of a social millieu. This domination, takes place within the confines of a society that recognizes it as OK to do. Another group, more enlightened like Ms. Dworkin who hopes to stand outside the bounds of this deluded society, would say it was a coercive and violent and used as a means to subjugate women. What was the definition of rape again?

1. The crime of forcing another person to submit to sex acts, especially sexual intercourse.
2. The act of seizing and carrying off by force; abduction.
3. Abusive or improper treatment; violation:

So, what is the difference between saying all (penetrative) sex is violent and saying all (penetrative) sex is rape, again? Especially from this outside vantage point that Ms. Dworkin privelages?

Can't I make the same claims for kissing or oral sex involving any two "consenting" adults of whatever sex? Would the logical point of this line of reasoning be this: that all sexual activity that involved the, ah-em, "exploration" or "(Dworkin preferred terminolgy--) "penetration" of human cavities of any sort--constructed within a society like the one Ms. Dworkin postulates ours to resemble--be violent and thus, "bad"?
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